Gay people are the new whipping boys in America. It is no longer just acceptable, but almost fashionable to make jokes about homosexuals. It starts in the schoolyard. If something is stupid, it’s “gay.” The same goes for someone who does something you don’t like: “Stop being gay, man.” Sadly, this fad has extended to mainstream media, and it has to stop.
Yesterday, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey officially resigned after revealing in August that he is gay and had an affair with a male aide. McGreevey said he was stepping down to spare his family and his office from the rumors that would inevitably circulate.
Former state security director Golan Cipel threatened McGreevey with a lawsuit for unwanted sexual advances on the day of his resignation and claimed state officials had tried to pay him off. Many believe Cipel was the aide involved in the affair.
In 2002, Cipel was named director of homeland security in New Jersey, a position paying more than $100,000 a year. When state lawmakers questioned his qualifications for the job, he resigned. Many have suggested that he received the job on the basis of his relationship with McGreevey, though Cipel denies it.
The situation here is not very straightforward, and obviously there was something funny going on in Trenton.
Since McGreevey announced his homosexuality and resignation, the fact that he is gay has become a national issue. He has become a target for cheap jokes, generally aimed at his sexuality. It seems like whenever there is a gay joke to be made, it is made at McGreevey’s expense.
An Internet-based T-shirt company, T-Shirt Hell, has come out with a disgusting and vulgar print against the former governor. If you want to see that shirt, go to their Web site. I won’t give them the satisfaction of reprinting it here. John DeBella, the morning show host for local radio station WMGK, has repeatedly picked on McGreevey and tried to make him into some sort of sexual predator lurking in the bushes. Whenever there is a joke to be made about someone being gay, DeBella is quick to say, “Watch out for Governor McGreevey,” even when the jokes have nothing to do with him.
Further, NBC aired an episode of Law & Order last Wednesday with the inappropriate title “Gov Love.” In the episode, the wife of the governor of Connecticut is found dead in Central Park, which is complicated by the discovery of the governor’s affair with a male state employee. It’s obvious where the idea for the episode came from, especially with the show claiming their ideas are “ripped from the headlines.”
When McGreevey announced his intention to resign, the media and the public focused on one thing. He was coming out as “a gay American.” Granted, news stories on his announcement included the affair, but in the public’s eye, he was resigning because he is gay. Last Monday, McGreevey fought against this belief.
“To be clear, I am not apologizing for being a gay American, but rather, for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making and for not having had the courage to be open about who I was,” McGreevey said.
If McGreevey had an affair with a female aide, the story would not have gained the level of notoriety it has, but because he is gay he is now an open target for mockery. The media just loves a scandal, and to them, McGreevey is the gay version of former President Bill Clinton.
There are more important issues that need to be discussed here. Giving someone a job based on a personal relationship is wrong, but being gay is not. He should not be judged on his personal lifestyle, and both the public and the media need to focus their attention on his record in office.
The fact of the matter is that what McGreevey did was very brave. To openly admit being gay to the world when you are in a position of such power takes courage. As McGreevey discovered, simply being gay opens you up to public criticism and ridicule. Society should not still be this way. If McGreevey is going to be judged, it should be based on his performance as governor, not on his sexuality.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.